On March 14th, 2006, NBC associate WPMI-TV out of Mobile, Alabama dispatched a news crew to the Crichton community to see why police had been called due to substantial groups of people congregating outdoors. Recalling the day, reporter Scott Walker explains on his website that “We heard reports of large crowds gathering in the Crichton community and police were being called out. We didn’t know WHY they were gathering.” After the news crew arrived and began filming, some people began to say that there was a leprechaun sitting in a nearby tree. In 2014 the identity of the leprechaun was finally revealed on a Dallas radio station.
The resulting news story, which aired three days later on St. Patrick’s Day, became one of the earliest viral video sensations on YouTube. It was so celebrated that it was referenced in a NY Times article on the subject of popular videos less than three weeks later.
An unrefined sketch of the so-called leprechaun, which was drawn by an amateur during the filming of the newscast, yielded just over a $1000 on eBay when auctioned by the station for charity.
9 years later, the video has over 24 million views, and has been satirized on South Park and featured on Tosh.0. Although it is not clear why the crowds were gathering in the first place, it is obvious that people were hamming it up for the camera.
In July 2009, Bill O’Reilly, host of Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” articulated apprehension about possible negative racial stereotypes portrayed in the video. During a broadcast of his show, he conceded, “If I were the news director, I don’t think I would have run the piece.”
There is no doubt that the editors and directors combed the raw footage for what was deemed the most comical and outrageous moments, yet it should be remembered that the people interviewed understood the possibility of appearing on a television broadcast, and apparently went out of their way to overact during their appearances. In this light, perhaps O’Reilly was theatricalizing his own brand of publicity.
2014: Identity Revealed
On the July 10, 2014 episode of the Bob and Dan Show on KTCK in Dallas, the Crichton Leprechaun was discussed (referred to on the show as the “Alabama Leprechaun”). They played the original news report from 2006 in a segment called “Bad Radio.”
Dan McDowell and another KTCK announcer, T.C Fleming, visited Mobile to investigate the leprechaun. As they interviewed local residents, the person behind the event was identified as a man known as Midget Sean. One woman told them the story as it was known locally, “His name is Midget Sean… One year he decided to – on St. Patrick’s day he decided to put on green and climb in the tree… Everybody was coming to see what was going on, and it was him. So now you have the truth.” The resident then told the announcers how they could find the man.
McDowell and Fleming then went on a search to find Midget Sean in order to obtain a first-hand interview. One man telephoned Midget Sean and asked him to come speak with the announcers. Eventually the men found Midget Sean, who discussed the hoax. He said that he used a ladder to climb into a tree, and was instructed by his cohorts to sit still.
“It wasn’t a real leprechaun. It was me.” Eventually, word of the leprechaun spread and residents flocked to the area to get a glimpse. It was “just like Mardi Gras.” He said that he had left by the time the news cameras had arrived. After the news crews left, Midget Sean stated that he returned and climbed back up in the tree.
The show is archived (along with a photo of the announcers posing with Midget Sean) at TheUnticket.
In the end, the Crichton Leprechaun (sometimes referred to as the Mobile Leprechaun) was an oddly entertaining story with all the correct elements to spark a reaction on St. Patrick’s Day. In 2014 the identity of the “leprechaun” was identified as Midget Sean, a man who dressed in green and climbed into a tree in order to cause a commotion.
Updated March 17, 2015
Originally published May 2014